By Kamlesh Tripathi
Many years ago, Rishi a friend of mine was returning from a hill-station with his newly married wife, after his honeymoon. They were in a shared jeep—the old one, with a superstructure and canvass top having two longitudinal seats at the rear, facing each other along the length of the vehicle.
And, as all hill routes of those times, it was an uncomfortable journey, especially because of the narrow and single winding road, and that too with a plethora of hair-pin bends, and many of them, even without railings. It was drizzling low key, that had shortened the visibility, and it appeared, both, the vehicle and the driver were not solely depending on visibility alone, to course through, and were even delving some bit on their day-to-day, hands-on experience of the road, since time immemorial.
In all there were ten people in the vehicle. Three in the front, and that included the driver, Rishi and his wife. Six in the rear seats, three on either side. They were two couples, and two men. And, last but not the least a half standing and half sitting, uncomfortable, restless, and a noisy kid of around ten to twelve years.
Even when the jeep was meandering down the road leaving everyone fatigued, giddy and somewhat tired the untiring kid was all over the jeep trying to reach up to the driver, to fiddle the gear lever and the steering wheel, and that was irritating the driver.
The parents of the kid appeared quite bindaas, and were not even attempting to calm their hyper-child.
After about fifteen minutes the jeep halted at the midway, to the railway station, which was a two hour drive from the hill-station.
Most cafeterias and dhabas were located within a span of about hundred metres on the straight road passing the midway, after which the road winded to an immediate right, where on one side you had climbing hills and on the other side a dangerous fall of about a thousand feet, where there were no railings. The roadsides along the straight road were crowded, and so the jeep driver took the vehicle closer to the immediate right and parked it there, and quite close to the point where there were no railings in a routine fashion, to announce a stop of fifteen minutes, quite sufficient to freshen up, followed by a cup of tea and some hot snacks, tasting, tastier in the cold weather, with those panoramic views of tall coniferous trees, in the lap of those tall mountains.
Everyone got off the vehicle except a lady in the rear seat who preferred to sleep most likely on account of giddiness that had set in her, and giving her company was her middle aged husband.
The naughty kid was the first to finish his snacks, and soon came and sat in the vehicle without his parents. And soon from the rear seat he jumped over to the front seat and started swirling his hands on the steering wheel.
The man behind mildly warned him to return to his seat but that fell on deaf ears. Soon the kid started enjoying the steering wheel when his hands reached the gear lever, and unknowingly his foot to the clutch pedal, and with that the jeep got into neutral mode and slowly started rolling. The man behind saw what had happened, and so, he jumped and ran towards the dhaba to call the driver, perhaps he didn’t know driving himself. His wife was still asleep in the jeep.
The kid was still unaware of what had happened and about the ensuing danger. And as the vehicle slowly moved he started enjoying the feel of the vehicle even more as the steering felt light. The vehicle was now heading towards the fall.
Upon hearing the shout the driver edged out of the dhaba and with grim eyes saw his fortune rolling towards the steep fall. He darted and jumped inside trying to push the kid aside to stop the vehicle, but by then it was too late as the front wheels of the jeep had already waddled off the road, where it overhung for some moments and off it went taking the unlucky trio along with it. All the three had died in the mishap— The kid, the driver and the lady behind.
We often blame destiny for whatever goes wrong in our lives. But in this case wasn’t it a case of default destiny?
For why were the parents of the kid so unconcerned about their hyper-child? In that one hour of journey they never reprimanded the child even once. Not even when he was irritating the driver while he was driving. And above all, they let the child alone, to the vehicle parked alongside a dangerous fall. So such parents who don’t reprimand their children at the initial stages need to introspect about the ghastly consequences.
The middle aged husband realising the danger did not attempt to save his wife first, instead he thought of saving all— the kid, his wife and the vehicle but in the process could save nothing. So should it be, help yourself first?
The driver knew about the hyper-child, yet he parked the jeep close to a dangerous point in all casualness. And he could have stayed away from the vehicle in those dying moments yet he pounced on it. So think before you jump.